May 12, 2014

Sidney Crosby's Playoff Scoring Woes Continue

The New York Rangers have overcome their "stupid" schedule (hey, coach Alain Vigneault is correct - 7 playoff games in 11 nights is stupid) to force a game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 2nd round series. 

St. Louis, Carl Hagelin and Derek Brassard (and great goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist) led the Rangers to 3-1 win on Sunday night. 

Brandon Sutter scored for Pittsburgh. No, Sidney Crosby did not score. Again. He now has just 1 goal and 8 assists in 12 post season games this spring, leading to much questioning as to what is wrong with the game's best player.

Injuries? Fatigue? Better defense? Bad slump? If all the experts out there can not agree on what ails Crosby, you certainly won't find any new answers here. 

But while there is no denying Crosby is struggling offensively and he needs to break out to quiet the critics, I would like to point out he is far from the first great of the game to struggle offensively in any given playoffs. And it doesn't mean he is not making significant contributions to his team's cause.

Wayne Gretzky had an "off" post season in Edmonton. The Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 21 games in 1987. But 99, the greatest goal scorer ever, only netted 5 goals. Yeah, he had a league leading 29 assists and 34 points. But people started wondering what was wrong with The Great One. He had 64 Stanley Cup goals in his previous 80 playoff games, so this was a significant drop off. There was enough chatter that Oilers owner Peter Pocklington began to realize Gretzky would sooner rather than later become a diminishing asset. Gretzky was unthinkably traded a little over a year later.

Gretzky was 26 years old when Pocklington realized this. The next regular season, his last in Edmonton, he missed the 50 goal mark for the first time in his career. Mind you, he did miss 16 games, match his career total of games missed in the 8 previous seasons. He had a monstrous playoff (19 games - 12-31-43, winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy).

Pocklington decided to sell high, and remains vilified for trading Gretzky ever since. But he was correct - although perhaps off by 3 years or so - in that Gretzky would soon be a declining offensive force.

Back to Sidney Crosby. Perhaps the question should not be what's wrong with Sidney Crosby, but should be has Sidney Crosby peaked as an offensive player? Crosby is 26 now, and history suggests star players have until their late 20s to peak before entering the down side of their careers. Disregarding his injury history, is this the first sign of Crosby's inevitable decline? He is the most dominant player of his generation, but he looks very ordinary this spring - perhaps foreshadowing more such play in the future?

Sidney Crosby's lack of offense is curious for sure. Perhaps he is injured, or just fatigued. Perhaps teams have figured out better ways to defend him. But I do not think it is unfair to question if he has peaked as an offensive star.

Even if he has, Crosby, like Gretzky, has many great years of hockey left. Crosby is a complete player and brings more to the game than just offense.

Take Jonathan Toews of the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks for example. Nowadays there are some whispers that Toews is actually the best player in the game. But just a year ago he struggled offensively, scoring just 3 goals and 14 points in 22 games. But there was no denying his dominant defensive game. Crosby similarly is a complete player but he is not getting the same pass Toews seemed to get last year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Think there are couple reasons to consider. No tough love, Q of the Blackhawks has benched Kane, Toews and others for a period if he thought they weren't performing well enough. The insistance that Crosby and Malkin only play with certain line mates. As much as successfull as they are and have been, they become predictable. Also the guys have been to the cup finals together and been playing together ever since. Those linemates are not Crosby's and Malkin's age but older, some on the wrong side of 30. Playoffs is not the time to experiment, juggle them during the season. Also, they need a shut down defender in the worst way, last champions had Keith, Chara, Daughty. Pens had Hal Gil putting out fires when they won the cup. Those defensemen don't grow on trees, but throw a farm woth of players, pics, prospects, anyone but Crosby and Malkin and I think Shea Webber will be a pen. Having a solid defensemen like Webber might fix Fleury too. When Pens won the cup, i seem to remember Malkin and Staal being the best players on that cup run. For all the hoopla, is Crosby the Pippen to Jordan, Wade to Shaq and Lebron? When Connor McDavid enters the draft, do you see if you can package crosby and spare parts for him?